The question of whether a meeting of the Rio Grande City school board of trustees would be held Thursday was unclear until less than an hour before it was scheduled to begin as four trustees asked an appellate court to reverse the decision that forbade them to meet.
The meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, was court-ordered last week by visiting state District Judge Carlos Valdez.
However, school board Trustees Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez and Basilio “Bacho” Villarreal, the board president and board secretary, respectively, filed a petition with the Fourth Court of Appeals Wednesday. In doing so, they requested a hold on Valdez’s order, which the appeals court granted, prohibiting four of the trustees — Leticia Lopez, Daria “Dr. B.” Babineux, Daniel J. Garcia, and Eleazar Velasquez Jr. — from holding Thursday’s meeting.
The four trustees then filed an emergency request to remove the hold on Valdez’s order so they could meet, leaving the possibility of whether a meeting could be held up in the air Thursday afternoon.
However, shortly before the meeting was scheduled to begin, word came down that the request was denied by the appeals court.
Items to be discussed during the meeting included the hiring of a new superintendent, the reorganization of the board, the firing of the current school district attorney and possible hiring of a new one, and the approval of several school trips.
The school district’s current attorney, Ruben Peña, said the attempts to keep the four board members from meeting were because they allegedly violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by not following the proper procedures for planning school board meetings.
The four board trustees had attempted to hold a special meeting on April 9 but Ramirez and Villarreal sought a temporary restraining order, which Valdez granted.
Following a hearing on the restraining order last week, Valdez signed an order establishing how regular or special board meetings can be called.
The order stated that special meetings are either at the board president’s “discretion” or at the request of four trustees in written or electronic format. These requests must be made individually and “not in concert with other board members.”
After receiving a request from an individual board member, the superintendent would need to contact the trustees individually to confirm, either written or electronically, “if there are four or more members in agreement” to hold a special meeting.
On Monday, the four board members filed an emergency motion to order a special meeting, stating they had followed the May 17 court order and requested a special meeting for May 23.
“Defendants have followed the Court’s Order and requested a Special Called Board Meeting and Defendants (Ramirez) and (Roel Gonzalez, the interim superintendent) have not followed the Court’s Order and have failed to properly post and call the requested Special Called Board Meeting,” the motion stated, requesting that Ramirez and Gonzalez be ordered held in contempt of court.
Attached to the motion were copies of emails the board members sent to Gonzalez requesting Thursday’s meeting.
After considering it, Valdez ordered that a notice for the meeting be posted no later than 5 p.m. on Monday which was done by Velasquez, one of the four board members trying to hold the meeting.
But given the last-minute appeal by Ramirez and Villarreal, the meeting didn’t happen.
It’s unclear when the Fourth Court of Appeals will rule on the matter or when the school board trustees will be able to meet again.